10 Causes of Discolored Urine

For most, the color of your urine on a normal day might range from pale yellow to pale amber. But what does it mean when you don’t have yellow urine? There are many causes of discolored urine, and many factors can cause your urine to change in appearance – even something as simple as what you eat. In other cases, discolored urine could be the sign of something that requires medical attention. Read on to learn more about dark urine causes and some of the most common reasons for discolored urine.


Hematuria, which happens when there are red blood cells in the urine, can be spotted by red urine, or urine that is light pink, peach, or even deep burgundy in appearance. It indicates blood in urine, with the darkness showing the severity. This condition is commonly seen by urologists and can be caused by anything from intense exercise to bladder or kidney cancer.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

When a person has a UTI, their urine often points to signs of the infection. Common traits include cloudiness, discoloration that’s red or brown, and/or an unusual smell. In most cases, the bladder infection will be accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms including abnormally frequent or painful urination.


If you experience a severe muscle injury or trauma, you may find that your urine appears to be red or brown. It could be an indicator that you’ve experienced damage to one of the structures of your urinary tract. The kidney is the most frequently injured kidney, but it could also be the result of trauma to the bladder, urethras or ureter.

Purple Urine Bag Syndrome (PUBS)

A rare occurrence, PUBS results from UTIs with certain bacterial strains have a reaction to the synthetic materials found in urinary catheters or bags. A majority of the time, it’s found among elderly patients who experience constipation and long-term urinary catheters. Not to be ignored, it points to recurring UTIs and in some cases, improper hygiene or care of urinary catheters.


Bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer in men and the seventh most common tumor found in women. Those with a current or past history of smoking are most at risk, so if your urine is discolored and you have a history of smoking, further evaluation is critical. Especially considering that many patients’ early symptoms mimic UTIs, a thorough medical evaluation is recommended to rule out malignancies.

Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)

Nearly 85% of malignant kidney tumors are caused by RCC, which accounts for 2-3% of all cancers in the U.S. One of the most common risk factors is obesity, particularly among women. When symptoms are present, the urine may contain traces of blood, appearing as brown or the color of rust.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Considering the direct link between the prostate and the urinary tract, it’s not unusual for blood leakage from BPH to be expelled into the urine stream. Hematuria is a common side effect of BPH that goes untreated and should be evaluated by a medical expert to assess its underlying cause.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones occur when build-ups of salt, minerals, calcium and uric acid form inside the kidney and enter the urinary tract. They can cause pain or burning during urination, blood in the urine, and a range of discolorations, from dark yellow urine to red or brown. About 1 in 11 people in the U.S. experience kidney stones at some point in their lives, with men more likely than women to be at risk.


Often, myoglobinuria is related to trauma or alcohol/drug abuse. It’s usually accompanied by tell-tale symptoms including muscle weakness, myalgia and dark urine. Those with the possibility of myoglobinuria should proactively seek medical attention and diagnosis, as it can quickly descend into life-threatening complications if left untreated.


Patients with long-term indwelling urinary catheters almost always contract bacteriuria. In some cases, their condition will develop into pyuria, which is defined by white blood cells being present in the urine. This can cause the urine to look cloudy or dark in appearance. To minimize the chance of an occurrence, urinary and suprapubic catheters are recommended to be changed every 3-4 weeks.

What to do if you have discolored urine

If your urine color is unusual and can’t be linked to foods or a medication you may be taking, it’s likely the sign of a medical condition. An evaluation from a medical professional, like a urologist, can help you find answers. It’s important to take discolored urine seriously, because knowing the exact cause of your symptoms and receiving proper urine infection treatment can help prevent conditions from worsening.

Your treatment will vary based on a comprehensive analysis of your symptoms, risk factors and medical history. If your urine discoloration is determined to be the result of dehydration, drinking more water can go a long way. Even if you think insufficient water intake could be the cause of your dark urine symptoms, it’s best to contact your doctor – especially if there’s blood present. It’s the only way to ensure that your urine discoloration is not linked to something more serious.

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